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This is the time of year when people start talking about being thankful and counting their blessings.  Normally, that’s an easy thing for me to do—I’ve been pretty contented with my lot in life over the past year.

Until the rains came.

My father became very ill in October and spent several weeks in the hospital. I was slated to attend a conference for Math Teachers during that time, and after speaking with the doctors, decided Dad was stable enough for me to leave. It was only for 3 days, but he took an unexpected turn for the worse, and I spent half the conference on the phone with my sister discussing medical options and DNRs. I made it home from CharmCity just in time to receive the call from the hospital, and be with Dad when he died.

His passing coincided with the end of the marking period at school, so I was also Folder pilebombarded by stacks of papers that needed grading, and e-mails from parents wondering why assignments hadn’t been logged into our system. Every moment I wasn’t making funeral arrangements—or answering all those e-mails—I spent grading. I even enlisted the help of my mother, my sister, and my department chair in order to meet my deadline. And I did. Every assignment that had to go on the first quarter report cards got finished.

And all the while, I had the worst migraine I’ve had in years. It lasted a total of two months, and I’m still feeling the after effects. It was so bad that, during all that grading, I could only read a couple of papers before my vision went blurry from the pain. I shouldn’t have been reading at all, or even out of bed, but I did what I had to do. After the marking period deadline passed, I spent a week in bed in a dark room and another several days learning to be upright again. When I went back to school I kept the lights off, and had my students do all the reading and writing. And they were wonderful! They kept each other quite. They came to me with questions so I didn’t have to be on my feet and moving around. They told me silly stories to cheer me up. And I continued to improve.

Then, of course, I was pulled out of class to meet with the principal and superintendent. That’s when I found out I no longer had a job. I didn’t recover from the migraine fast enough, they told me, and couldn’t be an effective teacher. These people–who were supposed to be my professional family–decided it would be easier to cut me loose and find someone else. Not only did they completely sever my means of financial support and health insurance, but they hurt me personally. These people had promised to support me, and instead they turned on me.

After all that, what could I possibly have to be thankful for? Silver linings on clouds that dark are hard to find.

Crepuscular_ray_sunset_at_Pearl_Harbor

But I found five:

1. Family  They drive me crazy most of the time, but my mom and stepdad are there when it counts. I’ve been living with them since my return to Michigan a year and a half ago, and was just about to sign a lease on my own apartment when I lost my job. They didn’t even bat an eyelash—I just wasn’t moving out. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and all the wifi I can use for as long as I need it.

2. Friends  I tend toward introversion, but my friends (both in person and electronic) have been massively supportive. They check in on me to make sure I’m okay, but give me space to be alone when I need to. They offered advice as well as condolences when Dad’s time came. And the best part: hugs, in real and virtual form. I’ve needed a lot of hugs these past months, and my friends were always there to provide them.

3. Doctor Who  No, this isn’t just a cheap way to get in a pic of Matt Smith and David Tennant. The Doctor, his companions, his enemies, and his adventures SmithTennanthave been like aloe on a sunburn for me. The show is smart, witty, funny, and exemplifies character development—all of which kept my mind occupied and soothed my soul as life became more and more overwhelming. Plus, the trips to Victorian England—complete with Matt Smith in a frock coat and beaver hat—were especially fun for this history geek 🙂

4. Audio books  I discovered audio books over the summer as a means of distraction as I attempted to exercise away the extra pounds I carry. The rest of the time I prefer the written word to the spoken one. But over the last couple of months reading has been impossible. Lying in the dark with a crushing pain in your head is also rather maddening—a person can only sleep so much.  What else can you do? Well, if you’re like me, you pull out the old iPod and listen to a book. It didn’t matter what the book was, it was something for me to focus on instead of the pain and frustration of being incapacitated but still conscious. I don’t think I retained much of the stories, but just having them available kept me from going crazy.

5. Flannel sheets and fuzzy blankets  This time of year, when the temperature is dropping and the snow is accumulating, I start to miss my former home in Miami. And, to be honest, I complain about it more than I should. But as much as I liked it, there was one thing the MagicCity could never provide: the comfort of flannel sheets or a fuzzy blanket on a cold night. Add a soft pillow and a pet or two to the mix, and you’ve got an evening that relaxes the body like no humid tropical night ever could. Plus, no giant cockroaches to worry about 😉

So those are my five silver linings in an otherwise dark autumn. What are you thankful for this holiday season?

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